Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Heritage Lottery Fund support for local remembrance project in #Stannington

It is a pleasure for me to use the blog to confirm the investment by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) over the years, allowing constituents to learn more about local heritage. This latest grant of £10,000 is based on the ‘Stannington Parish Centenary Festival of Remembrance’ project. This is a two year project, which will be researching and commemorating Stannington’s contribution to the First World War. This is a great opportunity for the people of Stannington and wider Northumberland to learn about their fallen war heroes. It is also a great pleasure that HFL have chosen to do funding in Northumberland, continuing their great work to protect Britain’s heritage. I look forward to seeing the positive results over the next two years. 

Monday, 30 January 2017

British economy grows fastest in G7 - strong progress but we still spend more than we earn

Britain grew at the fastest pace of all G7 leading nations last year and the economy did not skip a beat after the Brexit vote, official figures have confirmed. The gross domestic product (GDP) expanded by 0.6 per cent in the final three months of 2016, the same rate of growth as in the previous two quarters, in stark contrast to the Treasury’s warning before the referendum that the country would slip into recession if it voted to leave the EU. Over the year as a whole, Britain grew by 2 per cent, down from 2.2 per cent in 2015 but better than estimates for growth in the rest of the G7, including the US. Britain has now topped the world’s leading economies for two of the past three years.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Derwentwater Memorial renovation gets my full support - Jacobite history returning to its full glory!

Another great investment in Northumberland is by the SUEZ Communities Trust, through the Landfill Communities Fund. I have been informed that the SUEZ Communities Trust have invested £105 million into over 3,700 projects. Now SUEZ Communities trust have invested £2,100 to help repair and restore the Derwentwater Memorial and Cross, located 500m north of Langley Castle in a wooded valley. This funding will greatly help towards the restoration and repair of the Derwentwater Memorial. The funding is most generous and helpful to the community.
If you don't know the tale of the cross have a read here as it is good stuff:

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Profound changes to homelessness brought about Fridays successful Homeless Reduction Bill

On Friday parliament debated and passed the Homelessness Reduction Bill, a Government supported private members bill, which will make a real impact on this issue. The BBC description is here but it has received massive support from Crisis, St Mungos and the other key charities:

The Bill changes the point at which a person is classed as being threatened with homelessness from 28 days before a person is likely to be homeless, to 56 days.  A new duty - backed up by financial support - is placed on local housing authorities to take steps for 56 days to relieve that homelessness by helping any eligible homeless applicant to secure accommodation. Provision is also made for certain care leavers, to make it easier for them to show they have a local connection with both the area of the local authority responsible for them and the area in which they lived while in care if that was different.  I hope that this will really be a step change for those in priority need.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Trumps revised commitment to NATO is a massive step forward and worth the USA trip alone

Even the Guardian is complimentary:
"Theresa May has secured a commitment from Donald Trump that the US is fully behind Nato at a historic press conference with an uncharacteristically emollient president.
May’s wisdom in becoming the first foreign leader to visit Trump in the White House had been questioned, after a series of wayward comments from the president in the run-up to the much anticipated meeting on Friday. 
But she will hope to claim some credit for persuading him to reaffirm his country’s allegiance to the transatlantic alliance, which he has previously described as “obsolescent”.
Standing next to Trump, who nodded along, May said: “On defence and security cooperation, we’re united in our recognition of Nato as the bulwark of our collective defence and we reaffirmed our unshakeable commitment to this alliance. We’re 100% behind Nato.
“I agreed to continue my efforts to persuade my fellow European leaders to deliver on their commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defence, so that the burden is more fairly shared.”

Prime Ministers speech in full on foreign policy, NATO, the UN, Iraq, trade and a lot more - worth a read

I would like to thank Congress and the Congressional Institute for the invitation to be here today. The opportunity to visit the United States is always special. And to be invited to be the first serving Head of Government to address this important conference is an honour indeed.
I defy any person to travel to this great country at any time and not to be inspired by its promise and its example.
For more than two centuries, the very idea of America – drawn from history and given written form in a small hall not far from here – has lit up the world.
That idea – that all are created equal and that all are born free – has never been surpassed in the long history of political thought.
And it is here – on the streets and in the halls of this great city of Philadelphia – that the founding fathers first set it down, that the textbook of freedom was written, and that this great nation that grew “from sea to shining sea” was born.
Since that day, it has been America’s destiny to bear the leadership of the free world and to carry that heavy responsibility on its shoulders. But my country, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, has been proud to share that burden and to walk alongside you at every stage.
For the past century, Britain and America – and the unique and special relationship that exists between us – have taken the idea conceived by those “fifty-six rank-and-file, ordinary citizens”, as President Reagan called them, forward. And because we have done so, time and again it is the relationship between us that has defined the modern world.
One hundred years ago this April, it was your intervention in the First World War that helped Britain, France, our friends in the Commonwealth and other allies to maintain freedom in Europe.
A little more than seventy-five years ago, you responded to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour by joining Britain in the Second World War and defeating fascism not just in the Pacific but in Africa and Europe too.
And later, in the aftermath of these wars, our two countries led the West through the Cold War, confronting communism and ultimately defeating it not just through military might, but by winning the war of ideas. And by proving that open, liberal, democratic societies will always defeat those that are closed, coercive and cruel.
But the leadership provided by our two countries through the Special Relationship has done more than win wars and overcome adversity. It made the modern world.
The institutions upon which that world relies were so often conceived or inspired by our two nations working together.
The United Nations – in need of reform, but vital still – has its foundations in the Special Relationship, from the original Declaration of St James’ Palace to the Declaration by United Nations, signed in Washington, and drafted themselves by Winston Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The World Bank and International Monetary Fund, born in the post-war world at Bretton Woods, were conceived by our two nations working together.
And NATO – the cornerstone of the West’s defence – was established on the bonds of trust and mutual interests that exist between us.
Some of these organisations are in need of reform and renewal to make them relevant to our needs today. But we should be proud of the role our two nations – working in partnership – played in bringing them into being, and in bringing peace and prosperity to billions of people as a result.
Because it is through our actions over many years, working together to defeat evil or to open up the world, that we have been able to fulfil the promise of those who first spoke of the special nature of the relationship between us. The promise of freedom, liberty and the rights of man.
“We must never cease”, Churchill said, “to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man which are the joint inheritance of the English-speaking world and which through Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Habeas Corpus, trial by jury, and the English common law, find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence”.
So it is my honour and privilege to stand before you today in this great city of Philadelphia to proclaim them again, to join hands as we pick up that mantle of leadership once more, to renew our Special Relationship and to recommit ourselves to the responsibility of leadership in the modern world.
And it is my honour and privilege to do so at this time, as dawn breaks on a new era of American renewal. For I speak to you not just as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, but as a fellow Conservative who believes in the same principles that underpin the agenda of your Party. The value of liberty. The dignity of work. The principles of nationhood, family, economic prudence, patriotism – and putting power in the hands of the people.
Principles instilled in me from a young age. Principles that my parents taught me in the vicarage in Southern England in which I was raised. I know that it is these principles that you have put at the heart of your plan for government.
And your victory in these elections gives you the opportunity to put them at the heart of this new era of American renewal too.
President Trump’s victory – achieved in defiance of all the pundits and the polls – and rooted not in the corridors of Washington, but in the hopes and aspirations of working men and women across this land. Your Party’s victory in both the Congress and the Senate where you swept all before you, secured with great effort, and achieved with an important message of national renewal.
And because of this – because of what you have done together, because of that great victory you have won – America can be stronger, greater, and more confident in the years ahead.
And a newly emboldened, confident America is good for the world.
An America that is strong and prosperous at home is a nation that can lead abroad. But you cannot – and should not – do so alone. You have said that it is time for others to step up. And I agree.
Sovereign countries cannot outsource their security and prosperity to America. And they should not undermine the alliances that keep us strong by failing to step up and play their part.
This is something Britain has always understood. It is why Britain is the only country in the G20 – other than yours – to meet its commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defence, and to invest 20% of that in upgrading equipment. It is why Britain is the only country in the G20 to spend 0.7% of gross national income on overseas development. It is why my first act as Prime Minister last year was to lead the debate in Parliament that ensured the renewal of Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent. And it is why the Government I lead will increase spending on defence in every year of this Parliament.
It is why Britain is a leading member – alongside the United States – of the coalition working successfully to defeat Daesh; why we have agreed to send 800 troops to Estonia and Poland as part of NATO’s forward presence in eastern Europe; why we are increasing our troop contribution to NATO’s Resolute Support mission that defends the Afghan government from terrorism; and it is why we are reinforcing our commitment to peacekeeping operations in Kosovo, South Sudan and Somalia.
And it is why Britain is leading the way in pioneering international efforts to crack down on modern slavery – one of the great scourges of our world – wherever it is found. I hope you will join us in that cause – and I commend Senator Corker in particular for his work in this field. It is good to have met him here today.
As Americans know, the United Kingdom is by instinct and history a great, global nation that recognises its responsibilities to the world.
And as we end our membership of the European Union – as the British people voted with determination and quiet resolve to do last year – we have the opportunity to reassert our belief in a confident, sovereign and Global Britain, ready to build relationships with old friends and new allies alike.
We will build a new partnership with our friends in Europe. We are not turning our back on them, or on the interests and the values that we share. It remains overwhelmingly in our interests – and in those of the wider world – that the EU should succeed. And for as long as we remain members we will continue to play our full part, just as we will continue to cooperate on security, foreign policy and trade once we have left.
But we have chosen a different future for our country.
A future that sees us restore our parliamentary sovereignty and national self-determination, and to become even more global and internationalist in action and in spirit.
A future that sees us take back control of the things that matter to us – things like our national borders and immigration policy, and the way we decide and interpret our own laws – so that we are able to shape a better, more prosperous future for the working men and women of Britain.
A future that sees us step up with confidence to a new, even more internationalist role, where we meet our responsibilities to our friends and allies, champion the international cooperation and partnerships that project our values around the world, and continue to act as one of the strongest and most forceful advocates for business, free markets and free trade anywhere around the globe.
This is a vision of a future that my country can unite around – and that I hope your country, as our closest friend and ally, can welcome and support.
So as we rediscover our confidence together – as you renew your nation just as we renew ours – we have the opportunity – indeed the responsibility – to renew the Special Relationship for this new age. We have the opportunity to lead, together, again.
Because the world is passing through a period of change – and in response to that change we can either be passive bystanders, or we can take the opportunity once more to lead. And to lead together.
I believe it is in our national interest to do so. Because the world is increasingly marked by instability and threats that risk undermining our way of life and the very things that we hold dear.
The end of the Cold War did not give rise to a New World Order. It did not herald the End of History. It did not lead to a new age of peace, prosperity and predictability in world affairs.
For some – the citizens of Central and Eastern Europe in particular – it brought new freedom.
But across the world, ancient ethnic, religious and national rivalries – rivalries that had been frozen through the decades of the Cold War – returned.
New enemies of the West and our values – in particular in the form of Radical Islamists – have emerged.
And countries with little tradition of democracy, liberty and human rights – notably China and Russia – have grown more assertive in world affairs.
The rise of the Asian economies – China yes, but democratic allies like India too – is hugely welcome. Billions are being lifted out of poverty and new markets for our industries are opening up.
But these events – coming as they have at the same time as the financial crisis and its fall out, as well as a loss of confidence in the West following 9/11, and difficult military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan – have led many to fear that, in this century, we will experience the eclipse of the West.
But there is nothing inevitable about that. Other countries may grow stronger. Big, populous countries may grow richer. And as they do so, they may start to embrace more fully our values of democracy and liberty.
But even if they do not, our interests will remain. Our values will endure. And the need to defend them and project them will be as important as ever.
So we – our two countries together – have a responsibility to lead. Because when others step up as we step back, it is bad for America, for Britain and the world.
It is in our interests – those of Britain and America together – to stand strong together to defend our values, our interests and the very ideas in which we believe.
This cannot mean a return to the failed policies of the past. The days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world in our own image are over. But nor can we afford to stand idly by when the threat is real and when it is in our own interests to intervene. We must be strong, smart and hard-headed. And we must demonstrate the resolve necessary to stand up for our interests.
And whether it is the security of Israel in the Middle East or the Baltic states in Eastern Europe, we must always stand up for our friends and allies in democratic countries that find themselves in tough neighbourhoods too.
We each have different political traditions. We will sometimes pursue different domestic policies. And there may be occasions on which we disagree. But the common values and interests that bring us together are hugely powerful.
And – as your foremost friend and ally – we support many of the priorities your government has laid out for America’s engagement with the world.
It is why I join you in your determination to take on and defeat Daesh and the ideology of Islamist extremism that inspires them and many others terrorist groups in the world today. It is in both our national interests to do so. This will require us to use the intelligence provided by the finest security agencies in the world. And it will require the use of military might.
But it also demands a wider effort. Because one of the lessons of fighting terrorism in the last 15 years or so is yes, killing terrorists can save innocent lives. But until we kill the idea that drives them, the ideology, we will always have to live with this threat.
And as they are defeated on the ground, the terrorists are exploiting the internet and social media to spread this ideology that is preying on vulnerable citizens in our own countries, inspiring them to commit acts of terror in our own cities.
That is why the UK has led the world in developing a strategy for preventing violent extremism, and why the British and American governments are working together to take on and defeat the ideology of Islamist Extremism. I look forward to working with the President and his Administration to step up our efforts still further in order to defeat this evil ideology.
But of course, we should always be careful to distinguish between this extreme and hateful ideology, and the peaceful religion of Islam and the hundreds of millions of its adherents – including millions of our own citizens and those further afield who are so often the first victims of this ideology’s terror. And nor is it enough merely to focus on violent extremism. We need to address the whole spectrum of extremism, starting with the bigotry and hatred that can so often turn to violence.
Yet ultimately to defeat Daesh, we must employ all of the diplomatic means at our disposal. That means working internationally to secure a political solution in Syria and challenging the alliance between the Syrian regime and its backers in Tehran.
When it comes to Russia, as so often it is wise to turn to the example of President Reagan who – during his negotiations with his opposite number Mikhail Gorbachev – used to abide by the adage “trust but verify”. With President Putin, my advice is to “engage but beware”.
There is nothing inevitable about conflict between Russia and the West. And nothing unavoidable about retreating to the days of the Cold War. But we should engage with Russia from a position of strength. And we should build the relationships, systems and processes that make cooperation more likely than conflict – and that, particularly after the illegal annexation of Crimea, give assurance to Russia’s neighbouring states that their security is not in question. We should not jeopardise the freedoms that President Reagan and Mrs Thatcher brought to Eastern Europe by accepting President Putin’s claim that it is now in his sphere of influence.
And progress on this issue would also help to secure another of this nation’s priorities – to reduce Iran’s malign influence in the Middle East.
This is a priority for the UK too as we support our allies in the Gulf States to push back against Iran’s aggressive efforts to build an arc of influence from Tehran through to the Mediterranean.
The nuclear deal with Iran was controversial. But it has neutralised the possibility of the Iranians acquiring nuclear weapons for more than a decade. It has seen Iran remove 13,000 centrifuges together with associated infrastructure and eliminate its stock of 20% enriched uranium. That was vitally important for regional security. But the agreement must now be very carefully and rigorously policed – and any breaches should be dealt with firmly and immediately.
To deal with the threats of the modern world, we need to rebuild confidence in the institutions upon which we all rely.
In part that means multinational institutions. Because we know that so many of the threats we face today – global terrorism, climate change, organised crime, unprecedented mass movements of people – do not respect national borders. So we must turn towards those multinational institutions like the UN and NATO that encourage international cooperation and partnership.
But those multinational institutions need to work for the countries that formed them, and to serve the needs and interests of the people of those nations. They have no democratic mandate of their own. So I share your reform agenda and believe that, by working together, we can make those institutions more relevant and purposeful than they are today.
I call on others, therefore, to join us in that effort and to ensure they step up and contribute as they should. That is why I have encouraged Antonio Guterres, the new UN Secretary General, to pursue an ambitious reform programme, focusing the United Nations on its core functions of peacekeeping, conflict prevention and resolution. And it is why I have already raised with my fellow European leaders the need to deliver on their commitments to spend 2% of their GDP on defence – and 20% of their defence budgets on equipment.
It is also why I have already raised with Jens Stoltenberg – the Secretary General of NATO – the need to make sure the Alliance is as equipped to fight terrorism and cyber warfare, as it is to fight more conventional forms of war.
America’s leadership role in NATO – supported by Britain – must be the central element around which the Alliance is built. But alongside this continued commitment, I am also clear that EU nations must similarly step up to ensure this institution that provides the cornerstone of the West’s defence continues to be as effective as it can be.
Yet the most important institution is – and should always be – the nation state. Strong nations form strong institutions. And they form the basis of the international partnerships and cooperation that bring stability to our world.
Nations, accountable to their populations – “deriving” as the Declaration of Independence puts it “their just powers from the consent of the governed” – can choose to join international organisations, or not. They can choose to cooperate with others, or not. Choose to trade with others, or not.
Which is why if the countries of the European Union wish to integrate further, my view is that they should be free to do so. Because that is what they choose.
But Britain – as a sovereign nation with the same values but a different political and cultural history – has chosen to take a different path.
Because our history and culture is profoundly internationalist.
We are a European country – and proud of our shared European heritage – but we are also a country that has always looked beyond Europe to the wider world. We have ties of family, kinship and history to countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and countries across Africa, the Pacific and Caribbean.
And of course, we have ties of kinship, language and culture to these United States too. As Churchill put it, we “speak the same language, kneel at the same altars and, to a very large extent, pursue the same ideals”.
And, today, increasingly we have strong economic, commercial, defence and political relationships as well.
So I am delighted that the new Administration has made a trade agreement between our countries one of its earliest priorities. A new trade deal between Britain and America must work for both sides and serve both of our national interests. It must help to grow our respective economies and to provide the high-skilled, high-paid jobs of the future for working people across America and across the UK.
And it must work for those who have too often felt left behind by the forces of globalisation. People, often those on modest incomes living in relatively rich countries like our own, who feel that the global system of free markets and free trade is simply not working for them in its current form.
Such a deal – allied to the reforms we are making to our own economy to ensure wealth and opportunity is spread across our land – can demonstrate to those who feel locked out and left behind that free markets, free economies and free trade can deliver the brighter future they need. And it can maintain – indeed it can build – support for the rules-based international system on which the stability of our world continues to rely.
The UK is already America’s fifth largest export destination, while your markets account for almost a fifth of global exports from our shores. Exports to the UK from this State of Pennsylvania alone account for more than $2 billion a year. The UK is the largest market in the EU – and the third largest market in the world – for exporters here.
America is the largest single destination for UK outward investment and the single largest investor in the UK. And your companies are investing or expanding in the UK at the rate of more than ten projects a week.
British companies employ people in every US state from Texas to Vermont. And the UK-US Defence relationship is the broadest, deepest and most advanced of any two countries, sharing military hardware and expertise. And of course, we have recently invested in the new F-35 strike aircraft for our new aircraft carriers that will secure our naval presence – and increase our ability to project our power around the world – for years to come.
Because of these strong economic and commercial links – and our shared history and the strength of our relationship – I look forward to pursuing talks with President Trump and his new Administration about a new UK/US Free Trade Agreement in the coming months. It will take detailed work, but we welcome your openness to those discussions and hope we can make progress so that the new, Global Britain that emerges after Brexit is even better equipped to take its place confidently in the world.
Such an agreement would see us taking that next step in the special relationship that exists between us. Cementing and affirming one of the greatest forces for progress this world has ever known.
Seventy years ago in 1946, Churchill proposed a new phase in this relationship – to win a Cold War that many had not even realised had started. He described how an iron curtain had fallen from the Baltic to the Adriatic, covering all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe: Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Sofia and Bucharest.
Today those great cities – homes of great culture and heritage – live in freedom and peace. And they do so because of the leadership of Britain and America, and of Mrs Thatcher and President Reagan.
They do so – ultimately – because our ideas will always prevail.
And they do so because, when the world demands leadership, it is this alliance of values and interests – this Special Relationship between two countries – that, to borrow the words of another great American statesman, enters the arena, with our faces marred by dust and sweat and blood, to strive valiantly and know the triumph of high achievement.
As we renew the promise of our nations to make them stronger at home – in the words of President Reagan as the “sleeping giant stirs” – so let us renew the relationship that can lead the world towards the promise of freedom and prosperity marked out in parchment by those ordinary citizens 240 years ago.
So that we may not be counted with the “cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat”, but with those who “strive to do the deeds” that will lead us to a better world.
That better future is within reach. Together, we can build it.”

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

The attached transcript of the 4 Supreme Court judgments - majority of 8 - and 3 dissenting in full make very interesting reading for lawyer and non lawyer, leaver or remainer

That the government was right to litigate, and establish the extent of the prerogative, and this serious issue of what action follows the 23 June decision is beyond question.
As always, reading the judgment is advised before commenting on what the judges actually said or did, and why. I fully support the Supreme Court judges, and our judiciary, who are a cornerstone of our rule of law, and people we, as a country, should be very proud of.
Full transcript here: the majority opinion is first and the 3 dissenting judgements follow. If you like your law in bite sized pieces the last judgment is short and pithy!

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

You don't get to pick and choose your democracy - of course I will vote to trigger Article 50 but Corbyn enforcing a 3 line whip?

The European referendum was a divisive process for the nation. It divided houses, let alone political parties. But the result was clear. A 4% win in a 2 horse race is a big win. But my view would not change if either side had won by a narrower margin. I respect the democratic process and I respect the result.
If I had lost the general election by a slim margin I would have reached across to my opponents, shaken their hand, wished them well with a difficult job, kissed my good lady, and definitely have gone to the pub. A quantity of beer would clearly have followed (preferably Northumbrian Ale - I definitely support my local brewers).
It is well known in the north east that I campaigned for Remain in the referendum; but I fully accept the result. In order to trigger the process the Prime Minister has to notify formally the EU that the process must commence using Article 50. Parliament has already voted on this once since June 23 2016 and I believe that the Prime Minister is quite right to make it very clear that she will respect the June 23 result.
But the opposition parties are taking a different line. The liberals seem to have forgotten the democrat  part of their name - and clearly therefore a liberal democrat does not respect democracy. I listen to the ir argument which goes "the people have voted but the people were wrong, and should be ignored."

And now that arch rebel Jeremy Corbyn (voting record 500 times against his own party, let alone the coalition 2010-2015 government) is putting a 3 line whip on his party to vote for article 50.
And they don't like it.
The full spectator report of this is here: http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2017/01/irony-corbyns-three-line-whip/
But the key points are this:

Now the Labour leader is faced with one of those awkward moments that involve him telling his MPs to vote a certain way on a controversial issue, and those MPs rightly being a bit miffed. But it’s not the ‘Bitterites’ who are causing the trouble so far on the Labour leader’s suggestion this afternoon that he would expect his party to vote in favour of triggering Article 50. Clive Lewis, that well-known Blairite (for those who struggle with sarcasm and the internet, this is not true unless you read the Canary regularly), has told his local paper he needs more assurances from the government before he can support this vote. It hasn’t been a great day for Labour, though that sentence in itself is now rapidly becoming a ‘dog bites man’ sort of story. The party is now at 25 per cent in the polls, according to YouGov, 17 points behind the Tories. In this week’s magazine, I’ve looked at how it is faring in its Northern and Midlands heartlands, with some observations from insiders that are far more painful for the party than a dog bite. Dan Jarvis is one MP who has been fretting about Labour’s message on immigration, and has told The House magazine that the issue has become ‘toxic’. But we already know this. In fact, we’ve known for a long time what most of Labour’s problems are. Its problem is not that it doesn’t understand what its problem is. It’s that it already knows but refuses to do anything about it."

Great news about our green paper on a modern industrial strategy - get involved

The Conservatives are showing that we are the only party able to create a progressive economy. Today’s Industrial Strategy shows that we are backing Britain for the long term. We are the party helping build a country that works for everyone and I will continue to support the people of the North 

Monday, 23 January 2017

PM sets out vision for industrial strategy with emphasis in science, skills and innovation

The PM said the UK could do more to expand science and innovation, and she cited advances in battery technology as one area for growth. "Battery technology - we are leading the way on that already," she said.
She also highlighted plans to extend specialist maths schools.
There have been reports that the overhaul of technical education will include £170m of capital funding to set up institutes of technology to deliver education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.
Thousands of technical qualifications, which critics see as low quality, will be replaced with 15 core technical "routes" designed to meet industry's needs.
Commons education committee chairman Neil Carmichael said the move was welcome, and should go a long way" towards filling its 82,000-strong annual engineering skills gap.
Business will get a chance to consult on the industrial strategy proposals. The Institute of Directors said the strategy must concentrate on skills and infrastructure, not cash injections.
"The new strategy is a chance to provide a positive environment for existing companies, but also encourage the upstarts which will develop the products and services of the future," said James Sproule, director of policy at the IoD .
Full details here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-38710617

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Westminster this coming week - Article 50 dominates but launch of industrial strategy and multiple debates in parliament

This week will see further key developments regarding Brexit, as we have the judgment on the Supreme Court article 50 case, and consequential action in parliament. I remain certain that article 50 will go ahead.
Tomorrow sees the launch of the governments industrial strategy and there is clearly going to be support for technical and scientific training and the relevant key sectors of each region; in the house there are multiple debates in parliament this week. I am working on the Thursday and Friday business of the house this week so will be lat up to Northumberland next weekend.
I have multiple meetings in the commons this week, and am going to be in the house on Friday when the house hopes to debate and pass the homelessness reduction bill.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Kielder Reservoir flood prevention plan explained - the single biggest flood prevention measure in the country. At no real cost to the taxpayer

It has been over a year in the planning and organisation, but the Kielder Reservoir Flood Prevention Project is a massive success. Full credit to the team at Northumbria Water who have embraced the idea, when other water companies have not. Likewise the environment agency. The idea is simple. Run the reservoir at a lower level in the winter months so that when the biblical style rains come the reservoir can absorb the extra water and prevent it going down the Tyne. This takes around 10% of all Water going past the likes of CorBridge, Ovingham, and Hexham out of the game. Of all the possible flood prevention ideas this is by far the biggest and dwarfs all the local plans already in place. It is of particular help to the communities of the north Tyne at Bellingham, Wark, and all places in between until the river meets the south Tyne at warden.
We still need to address south Tyne in more detail, and plans are afoot. But the assurance we gave the residents at the many flood meetings I held in 2016 has definitely been fulfilled and the reservoir is presently operating at just over 80% as can be seen from the attached pictures. I will be seeking to persuade Defra to copy our model.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Good news: 294,000 more in work than this time last year - the unemployment rate remains at 11-year low of 4.8% -

Unemployment rate at 11-year low
Unemployment: The unemployment rate remains at 11-year low of 4.8%
Employment: The employment rate is 74.5%; a near-record high
Women: Female employment rate reaches a new record high of 69.9%
Youth unemployment: Youth unemployment is down by over 360,000 since 2010 and the lowest in 11 years
Work: There are 31.8 million people now in work, up by over 2.7 million since 2010
Pay: Average wages excluding bonuses grew by 2.7% over the last year and real pay excluding bonuses grew 1.7% over the year
Today’s official statistics show we start the new year with another encouraging set of figures. Employment continues to run at a near-record high, unemployment remains at an 11-year low and both figures are stronger than this time last year – highlighting the strength and resilience of our labour market as we step up to the challenges of 2017.
This good news applies across the country, with the female employment rate hitting a new record high, and the rate of young people not in work or full time education at a record low of 5.3%. There are 294,000 more people in work compared to this time last year.
Unemployment continues to fall; down 52,000 on the quarter and down over 900,000 since 2010, with long-term unemployment the lowest since mid-2008. And a separate set of official statistics released today show that 900,000 claims had been made to Universal Credit up to 8 December, with an average of 13,000 new claims per week in the preceding 4 weeks. Of those on Universal Credit at 8 December, 43% were in work.
We have made real progress creating a strong economy and helping more people into work, and will do what is needed to continue that trajectory as we build a country that works for everyone.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Prime Minister sets out her 12 negotiating objectives for Brexit in detail

Today I set out the Government’s 12 negotiating objectives for leaving the European Union - part of our plan for Britain, which aims to get the right deal abroad while ensuring a better deal for ordinary working people here at home – and I wanted you to be one of the first to know about it.
The referendum last June was a vote to leave the European Union. But it was also a vote for change – to shape a brighter future for our country, to make it stronger and fairer, and to embrace the world. And it is the job of this Conservative Government to deliver it and to get the right deal for Britain as we do.
We seek a new and equal partnership – between an independent, self-governing Global Britain and our friends and allies in the European Union. We are leaving the EU, not Europe.
Tell me what you think about our plan.
That means taking the opportunity of this great moment of national change to step back and ask ourselves what kind of country we want to be. To pursue 12 objectives that amount to one goal: a new, positive and constructive partnership between Britain and the European Union. 
1. Certainty: whenever we can, we will provide it. And we can confirm today that the Government will put the final deal that is agreed between the UK and EU to a vote in both Houses of Parliament. 
2. Control of our own laws: we will bring an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Britain. Because we will not have truly left the European Union if we are not in control of our own laws.
3. Strengthen the Union: we must strengthen the precious Union between the four nations of the United Kingdom. We will work very carefully to ensure that – as powers are repatriated back to Britain – the right powers are returned to Westminster and the right powers are passed to the devolved administrations. We will make sure that no new barriers to living and doing business within our Union are created.
4. Maintain the Common Travel Area with Ireland: we will work to deliver a practical solution that allows the maintenance of the Common Travel Area with the Republic of Ireland, while protecting the integrity of the United Kingdom’s immigration system.
5. Control of immigration: the message from the public before and during the referendum campaign was clear: Brexit must mean control of the number of people who come to Britain from Europe. We will continue to attract the brightest and the best to work or study in Britain but there must be control. 
6. Rights for EU nationals in Britain, and British nationals in the EU: we want to guarantee these rights as early as we can. We have told other EU leaders that we can offer EU nationals here this certainty, as long as this is reciprocated for British citizens in EU countries.
7. Protect workers’ rights: as we translate the body of European law into our domestic regulations, we will ensure that workers’ rights are fully protected and maintained.
8. Free trade with European markets: as a priority we will pursue a bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement with the European Union. This agreement should allow for the freest possible trade in goods and services between Britain and EU member states. It cannot mean membership of the EU’s Single Market. That would mean complying with European Court of Justice rulings, free movement and other EU rules and regulations without having a vote on what those rules and regulations are. And because we will no longer be members of the Single Market, we will not be required to contribute huge sums to the EU budget. If we contribute to some specific EU programmes that we wish to participate in, it will be for us to decide. 
9. New trade agreements with other countries: it is time for Britain to become a global trading nation, striking trade agreements around the world. Through the Common Commercial Policy and the Common External Tariff, full Customs Union membership prevents us from doing this – but we do want to have a customs agreement with the EU and have an open mind on how we achieve this end. 
10. The best place for science and innovation: we will continue to collaborate with our European partners on major science, research and technology initiatives.
11. Co-operation in the fight against crime and terrorism: we want our future relationship with the EU to include practical arrangements on matters of law enforcement and intelligence. 
12. A smooth, orderly Brexit: we want to have reached an agreement about our future partnership by the time the two year Article 50 process has concluded. From that point onwards, we expect a phased process of implementation. We will work to avoid a disruptive cliff-edge.
These are our objectives for Brexit. A truly Global Britain - the best friend and neighbour to our European partners, but also a country that reaches beyond the borders of Europe and embraces the world. A country that gets out into the world to build relationships with old friends and new allies alike – a great, global trading nation that is respected around the world and strong, confident and united at home.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Oxfam should be applauding Bill Gates not attacking him - the worlds greatest philanthropist is single handedly ending diseases throughout Africa

Oxfam loses a large part of its credibility today. I met Bill Gates when he presented to the Houses of Parliament and was supported by politicians of all backgrounds for the amazing work he is doing through his foundation to eliminate diseases. If you support the 0.7% contribution to international aid, as I do, you will know that Gates efforts dwarf this, and yet he works in close partnership with the UK government of all persuasions, and has done so for many years.
And Oxfam are also wrong on global inequality.
Global capitalism is lifting people out of poverty at the fastest rate in human history. Global inequality is narrowing, fast. Oxfam will not, and cannot, dispute such things – but this doesn’t suit its new anticapitalist agenda. A great charity lost a lot of credibility today.
The Spectator does an expert demolition of Oxfam here:

Westminster this week - women2win training, debates aplenty and many meetings in westminster

Tonight sees the return of our regular women2win training sessions as I do all I can to increase the number of female MPs in the House of Commons and elected offices generally. In addition, this week we have the debate on the national citizen service bill, a day debating SNP opposition matters, PMQs,  debates on the impact of Brexit and national security and justice matters, and further backbench debates. I am also helping in the campaign to get a central Newcastle UTC with a meeting at the DFE on Thursday. I have a busy weekend of work ahead including multiple surgeries, school visits, and constituent meetings this coming Friday.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Government backed Flood protection works begin in Corbridge -

The sight of the damage to Station Road, the rugby club and the entire south bank of the Tyne at Corbridge with storm desmond will live with us all forever. The community has slowly but surely got themselves back on track but I am really pleased with the progress made in flood prevention. Government funds have been allocated for work done to improve the situation as set out in the courant this week: http://www.hexham-courant.co.uk/news/corbridge/Work-starts-on-15m-scheme-to-reduce-flood-threat-in-Corbridge-bd13b65e-ba1e-46fb-9db5-f3c0daa552ef-ds

Friday, 13 January 2017

Success on Matfen broadband campaign after a long campaign - really well done Councillor Veronica Jones

Really pleased that one of our largest villages with poor broadband has now been connected up by BT, after along campaign. Details are here:

Details of the long campaign we fought to get BT to spend a very large amount of money connecting up this village and the local businesses are here:http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/mp-guy-opperman-takes-up-8550324

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Meeting Northumbria Water at Kielder dam for further progress on the use of Kielder Reservoir for flood defence

Today I have a variety of meetings in Kielder, and Bellingham; but the key development is the progress made on flood prevention. This has been done by persuading the Environment Agency and Northumbria Water to lower the level of the reservoir to allow for water to be stored in the lower reservoir rather than cascading down the North Tyne, with all the flooding consequences.
More details are here:
The key passage from my report is this
"Kielder Reservoir. 
Flood alleviation will now start at 80% and more water will be released in the future, resulting in at least 6-7% more storage in the reservoir. This will be an ongoing operation and will also be assessed as it is being done"

I will also be visiting Kielder School, the Bellingham Sure Start, and meeting various teachers, councillors, governors and constituents. Looking forward to the day, albeit a bit nervous of the snow / gales and bad weather.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

We will miss Obama - a game changing President

This is his final speech in an emotional farewell in Chicago: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-38580849

The Prime Minister is right to talk about mental health and the governments efforts to combat this

It was, in fact, the man once voted the greatest Briton of all time, Winston Churchill, who first popularised the euphemism “the black dog” as if talking in stark terms about depression and anxiety would hardly be befitting of a Brit. 
Mental health touches every one of us in some way; whether personally, professionally, or through friends and families, the damage caused and the failures that are sometimes evident in the system certainly prove  the argument that it is morally wrong not to address this issue. More details in the attached report:

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

The Copeland by election is turning into a referendum on #Corbyn and his nuclear views

The labour MP Jamie Reed is standing down. There are many reasons for this but his dismay at Corbyn and the direction of the Labour Party is well known. I was in Cumbria on Saturday knocking on doors in 3 separate villages and towns.
It is clear that Corbyns desire to get rid of nuclear power is a disaster on the Copeland doorsteps. But don't take my word for it.
This bizarre disavowal of his own leader from a local labour councillor in Sunday's Observer:

Whitehaven councillor Bill Kirkbride. “We’d have no economy (without nuclear) otherwise. But the general view on the doorstep regarding the leader is an issue without a doubt. If they bring up the issue of Jeremy’s attitude to nuclear, we have to tell them he doesn’t write party policy. He’s entitled to his private thoughts like any MP and councillor.”

The reality of course is that labour elected Corbyn as their leader and his anti nuclear power views are more than just his personal views! 
His views on everything else from his links to the IRA, Cuba, Hamas and his attitude to the army and the royal family are also irrelevant I suppose?
Of course not.

My fellow northern MP Andrew Stephenson has written this assessment of the Copeland by election

Today is the chance to see the Northumberland NHS Vanguard programme pioneering integrated joined up healthcare - come find out more Hexham January 10 2-4pm about the Vanguard programme

The NHS in Northumberland has been awarded £4.29 million funding from NHS England as part of its vanguard programme to integrate health and social care services across the county.  
From April 2017 health and care partners in Northumberland are set to form England’s first accountable care organisation (ACO), building on successful work over many years to join up services.
The ACO for Northumberland will be the first of its kind in the whole NHS and is a partnership between both providers and commissioners of local NHS services including Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, primary care services, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust and North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust.
Crucially, the ACO will also include commissioners of NHS services with a shared support structure already in place, in shadow form, between Northumberland County Council and NHS Northumberland CCG.  This pioneering approach will maximise the opportunities for an integrated, strategic commissioning approach across NHS services, social care and public health. 
The new way of working in Northumberland aims to create a much more sustainable NHS for the future, by breaking down organisational barriers and joining up services for patients.  Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust will be the host provider of the new ACO partnership, which will build on work which has been taking place over the past two years in Northumberland since the county was awarded ‘vanguard’ status*. 

To help people understand more about the new ACO partnership in Northumberland and how this will help deliver the ambitions of the wider draft regional sustainability and transformation plan, members of the public are being invited to a series of engagement events in January to find out more.
Supported by Healthwatch Northumberland, the events will be held as follows:
·       Tuesday 10 January – Hexham Community Centre (2-4pm)
·       Thursday 12 January – Blyth Community Enterprise Centre (10am-12pm)
·       Thursday 12 January – Northumberland CVA, Ashington (2-4pm)
·       Friday 13 January – Bellview Resource Centre, Belford (10am-12pm)

Local GP Dr Alistair Blair, who has been at the forefront of the vanguard programme, said: “In Northumberland we’re well ahead in terms of joining up different parts of our health and care system and we’ve already delivered some major innovations. The transformation of emergency care, despite some of the teething challenges at The Northumbria, is already having a very positive impact not only on patient care, outcomes and experiences, but also on the efficiency of our system as a whole. We now need to build on these achievements and really focus our collective efforts on supporting people to stay healthy and well.  The development of an ACO will allow us to do just that and will be a major step forward in helping us to proactively address some of the really big challenges facing the NHS.”

Mr David Evans, chief executive of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said: “The ACO development represents new territory for the entire NHS and means, for the first time, all health and care organisations will be around the top table to discuss and agree, as strategic partners, how best to invest in patient care and develop services.  Nowhere else in the country is doing this and it is testament to the strong, positive relationships that exist right across our system that we are so far ahead.
“Our vanguard work is critical to the successful delivery of the ambitions outlined in both the NHS Five Year Forward View and the sustainability and transformation planning which has been taking place right across the NHS. All of this work fits together and is focussed on three simple things; improving the healthcare people receive; preventing ill health; and making sure the NHS operates as efficiently as possible, both now and in the future.”